E tu Chicken Biryani

April 25, 2013 by

I was lucky enough to be visiting Waiheke Island for a pot luck dinner, when this dish turned up. I had never eaten a Biryani that I had liked before – from Indian takeaway joints, always too stodgy, or overpowered. I didn’t realise it was supposed to be a fragrant, light and pleasing dish. Hence, I’ve labelled this recipe “E tu chicken biryani”, because it’s the first one to stand-up for me (e tu is stand up in Te Reo).

I’ve since experienced other nice Biryani, though never from a takeaway – it seems they miss out on some form of love quotient when preparing food. Or perhaps I just need to visit more upmarket Indian restaurants

This recipe seems much simpler (less ingredients and steps) than other recipes I’ve seen on the web, but I am very happy with the results. Next on the agenda is to try Mamta Gupta’s Lamb Biryani recipe. And without further ado…


The Recipe

The basic idea is to make two dishes (the chicken and the rice) separately, then combine them before serving. When preparing your shopping list, remember to account for all quantities of cardamom, cloves and cinnamon sticks, there are two lists of ingredients – about the same amount go into each dish. I almost ran out of cinnamon making a double recipe which needs 6 sticks in total!

Don’t let the list of ingredients scare you either, it really is a simple dish that packs so much flavour.


Chicken Ingredients:

  • 1 kg chicken pieces (medium sized)  or 1 medium sized chicken (cut into pieces)
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 can of (peeled and chopped) tomatoes (approx. 400g)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 cloves (whole)
  • 2 cardamom pods (whole)
  • 3 bay leaves (optional)
  • 6 tbsp oil (for frying)
  • Fresh coriander

Spices for Chicken

  • 2 tsp ginger (crushed)
  • 2 tsp garlic (crushed)
  • 2 tsp dry chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground tumeric
  • ½ tsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp salt

Method (Chicken)

  1. In a wide saucepan, heat oil on high.
  2. Add cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods and cloves and fry until they turn a dark brown.
  3. Add the bay leaves and onions, fry until light brown.
  4. Add the tomatoes, all the spices. Stir and cook on a medium heat until the juice/water from the tomatoes has mostly evaporated.
  5. Add the chicken pieces, stir and cover with a lid. Simmer on medium heat. Do not add any water. Stir occasionally. Allow 40 – 45 minutes for the chicken to cook through.


Rice Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Basmati Rice
  • 3 ½ cups of water (if rice is not soaked), or 3 cups if soaked an hour before
  • 3 tbsp desiccated coconut
  • 3 tbsp ghee or clarified butter
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 cardamom pods (whole)
  • 2 cloves (whole)

Method (Rice)

  1. Wash rice (until water is clean)
  2. In a pan, add the ghee, cinnamon stick, cloves and cardamom pods. Fry until dark brown.
  3. Add the rice and water, then mix in the salt and coconut.
  4. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium to simmer until water content is halved. Reduce heat to low, cover with a lid and cook for 10 minutes.


To serve…

Mix the chicken and rice dishes together in a tray. Garnish with fresh coriander. Serve with riata or plain yoghurt, as well as some crispy fried onions as a garnish that will make this dish really hum!

Last time I cooked this dish, I de-boned all the chicken pieces before serving. It’s important to have the bones in during the cooking for added flavour, but found it nice and simple (and even) for feeding a large group of people.



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